• Commuters in pain, as gridlock persists on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway
In the past couple of days, navigating through the popular Oshodi-Apapa Expressway in Lagos has been a hellish experience. In the words of many motorists and commuters, sheer chaos has returned to the road in generous proportions.
Security officers maintaining sanity on the road seemed to have been totally overwhelmed by the irrepressible tanker drivers. The operatives have since vanished from the paralysed highway.
On Monday, the gridlock from Tin Can Island Port extended to Iyana Isolo. The trailer-trucks took up one lane, leaving two lanes for other vehicles.
But shortly after Cele Bus Stop, the trucks covered two lanes, even as they also occupied half of the service lane, thereby congesting the remaining lane.
From Ijesha, traversing the road became a herculean, hellish endeavour. Saloon cars and commercial buses jostled on the road with container-bearing articulated trucks. It has remained so since then.
Drivers of the yellow commercial buses, otherwise known as danfo, have again resumed their deadly habit of driving against traffic. Right from Cele Bus Stop, they would face the Oshodi-bound traffic coming from Mile 2 at break-neck speed.
Although the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State jointly constituted a special task force on July 20 to unravel the perennial gridlock on the road as well as its environs, commuters and motorists are still in excruciating pain.
The Vice President, accompanied by Ambode, had conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the road on July 20. He thereafter ordered a 72-hour joint operation to clear the gridlock around the Apapa Expressway and other affected roads caused by stationary articulated vehicles.
Osinbajo, who made an unscheduled visit to the area to assess the level of pain being experienced by residents and the economic loss to Nigeria, directed the relevant government agencies to immediately embark on the decongestion of the popular road leading to the Apapa seaports.
Osinbajo was also accompanied on the visit by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and senior naval and police officers.
The following day, security agencies and stakeholders in the maritime sector swung into action and battled to remove all container-laden trucks and tankers parked along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and open up the service lane in the axis. The operation was also targeted at other parts of the state that have been overwhelmed by articulated trucks.
The task force, tagged “Operation Restore Sanity on Lagos Roads,” involved 2,271 personnel drawn from the Nigeria Police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and the Army, Air Force and Navy. The operation also involved relevant unions within the maritime sector such as Amalgamation of Container Truck Owners Association, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria and Association of Maritime Truck Owners, among others.
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There appeared a relief to many users of the road for the few days that the operation lasted. The task force was able to curtail most of the drivers who parked their vehicles recklessly and whipped some level of sanity into their psyche.
Unfortunately, the sigh of relief lasted for barely two weeks. Right now, the road has returned to its chaotic state. From Cele Bus Stop to Mile 2 and inward Apapa Wharf, the entire stretch has been choked and overrun by trailer-trucks and other articulated vehicles.
The traffic on the expressway has now extended to other adjoining roads linking Apapa, traumatising all residents.
Some of the roads affected are Ago Palace Way, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Old Ojo Road, Alahun Osunba Street, Comfort Oboh Street, Dillion Street in Kirikiri, and Happy Home Avenue among others in the Kirirkiri Industrial Layout.
The on-going repair works on the failed section, which has turned into a gully at Berger Bus Stop close to Mile 2, has resulted in diverting most of the trucks to the service lane and adjoining streets. Craters and heaps of sand and stones have taken up the section, with construction vehicles stationed at the spot on August 12 when the reporter visited.
Many residents have called on the Federal Government to come up with a lasting solution to the menace. They lamented that motorists and commuters have suffered for too long and the situation has become unbearable.
A resident lamented on Lagos Traffic Radio on Tuesday morning that he couldn’t access his home in Festac on Monday night, noting that there was little or no movement between Cele Bus Stop and Mile 2.
Ambode has, on different platforms, proffered a permanent solution to the unhealthy development. According to him, the Federal Government cannot continue to abandon other ports in the country and expect the current traffic crisis to abate.
The governor admitted that all his consultations with different stakeholders and interventions had been mere palliative measures. Through a collaborative approach, he had met with the Nigeria Ports Authority, Shippers’ Council, tank farm owners, and Department of Petroleum Resources, among others.
Giving details on the earlier three-day operation, commissioner for information and strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, said more than 2,000 articulated vehicles were removed from the road, including Oshodi- Apapa Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue and Mile 2-Orile Road, and taken to seven designated holding bays.
Until now, the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway had been known for chaotic traffic. But every passing day, the situation continues to get worse. Trucks going into Apapa have become the lords of the road. They lay claim to virtually every inch of space, in an unruly manner. Most of the time, lawlessness and confusion reign on the road. Everyone brazenly drives against traffic, not minding the consequences. Many pedestrians have been knocked down by reckless drivers and sent to their graves. Vehicles have been involved in head-on collisions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and loss of valuable property.
Many commercial vehicles have relocated to other routes to continue to ply their trade. This is more to the detriment of the passengers who are forced to cough out exorbitant fares charged by the few drivers left on the route. The drivers have also defended the hike and argued that they suffer the more on the road. According to them, the petrol meant for four trips is now exhausted on a trip. Only sweet memories of yesteryears of the pleasure of driving into Apapa or Mile 2 are what people who knew Apapa a decade ago can now recollect.
Entering Apapa at the moment is an unpalatable adventure, which apparently exudes danger. Due to the terrible road, commercial motorcycles are the only means to reach the axis. It is a journey that is not meant for the lily-livered. The okada riders seem to enjoy riding against traffic, even at break-neck speed, ignoring passengers’ protests. Caution appears an alien word to many of the riders as their quest for daily proceeds supersedes every reason.
As gathered, the steady rise of businesses such as tank farms and companies offering haulage services located in the axis has further compounded the sufferings of residents and many business owners there. For instance, each of the terminals located around Apapa, Kirikiri and its environs, on a daily basis, takes delivery of tens and hundreds of trailer-trucks, each coming to pick up or drop containers. It was also gathered that some other factors that have given rise to the chaos were the breakdown of activities at the ports and lack of holding bays at some tank farms and shipping lines operating in the axis.
The situation has made movement in and around the Apapa axis extremely difficult and sometimes impossible for many road users. In fact, the road is on lockdown. Many residents and workers in the area have sacrificed precious hours in the traffic congestion resulting in manpower loss. It is simply stating the obvious that businesses in the area are suffering unspeakable harm.
Many commuters and motorists have sad tales to tell on the road. Robbers and hooligans have cashed in on the situation to disposes residents and commuters of their cash and valuables.
A worker in the Kirirkiri area, Uche Ogbonna, told the reporter: “I can’t remember the number of days I have slept in my office at the mercy of mosquitoes. It is not easy but what can one do when there are no other jobs? We are only hoping that the government will soon do the needful.”